When it comes to the ecotourism in West Papua, flora and fauna are the attractions. Besides the numerous plants on this island, the animals are also unique. Among the many species of animals, these two definitely stand out. Meet The Natural Singers of The Earth: The Birds of Paradise and The Singing Dogs.
The Birds of Paradise (Cendrawasih)
Most people will automatically think of this bird at the subject of Papua and West Papua in a conversation. In Indonesian, this species is called ‘Cendrawasih’. (This name is also used for a local university in Papua.) The Bird of Paradise is a name given by the British.
The story behind the name “Birds of Paradise” is quite funny. At first, The British refused to believe the existence of these birds because they were beautiful beyond words. When the Europeans, in general, believed in their existence, then the British took one Cendrawasih bird as a present for their King in 1522.
These birds exist in many vibrant, beautiful colours. Birds of Paradise do not only live in Papua. In Indonesia, there are about 41 species – with 37 in Papua. It is easier to name each by the dominant colour they represents. For example: Red Cendrawasih, Blue Cendrawasih, or Yellow Cendrawasih.
If you wonder how to determine their most dominan colour, the top of their heads say it all. Besides that, there is another reason these birds make the attractions for the ecotourism in West Papua. They can dance and mesmerize you with it. They can also sing beautifully, which makes them The Natural Singers of The Earth.
One example from this species is Cendrawasih Parotia. This bird is black with some tints of blue in between. This bird dances during the mating season. The ritual can last for hours – and anyone who has ever had a chance to witness that firsthand is definitely lucky.
Unfortunately, Birds of Paradise have been endangered for so long. The price of their unworldly beauty comes in the great number of people tempted to poach them. These birds are either stolen for their exotic house pets or for sale in the black markets.
Not only that, but the deforestation has also worsened from year to year. Because of this, the habitat of these lovely birds has also been reduced. It is hard for any wild animals to survive if humans keep trying to steal their homes.
The Singing Dogs
Once upon a time, some decades ago, the singing dogs had ruled the highlands of Papua and Papua New Guinea. By appearance, they may have looked like your regular house dogs. In reality, these are no domestic pooches. As one of the rare wonders in Papua and West Papua, the singing dogs had been thought to have gone extinct before.
Over two decades later, no one had thought that these singing dogs would have resurfaced. The first photo of the dogs was published in December 2012. The photographer was Tom Hewitt, Director of Adventure Alternative Borneo. At that time, he was on a trek in the Western New Guinea.
According to Hewitt, these animals prefer being in West Papua. There is no clear history about how these dogs began inhabiting the island. Science Magazine wrote that it was probably dated back around 3500 years ago. The singing dogs resembled the Australian dingoes, with their tan, short hair, and a slightly melodious howl.
In fact, some who have witnessed them from afar thought that they did not actually sound like they were singing. They sounded more like yodeling, which make them more unique. Based on the already collected live samples, there are about 200 – 300 New Guinean dogs in zoos and sanctuaries worldwide.
These singing dogs have gone through various researches since the time they were first discovered. Based on the research study published in the Proceedings of The National Academy of Sciences, the singing dogs of West Papua have various, close relations to the Australian dingoes and other East Asian dogs, like chow-chow, Akita, and Shiba Inu. No wonder they seem to remind us of different other dogs while not at the same time.
Peter Dwyer, a zoologist at the University of Melbourne, is worried about the population of these singing dogs. Although they are shy, wild dogs, their cute and uniqueness may attract future poachers. Since they resemble regular house pooches from a distance, it is going to be tough to locate them once they get poached.
The Birds of Paradise and The Singing Dogs are The Natural Singers of The Earth. They also make the ecotourism of West Papua more interesting. To keep them, it is best just to enjoy their beauty from a distance. Not everything that entices you means for keeping.
Anyone who has had a chance to listen to the singing dogs and the birds of paradise in West Papua is so lucky. They are what makes nature beautiful. Leave them where they are.